Going Beyond Vitamin C

Going Beyond Vitamin C

Supercharge Immunity with a Food Pharmacy

by Kristin Pomeroy

At this time of year we seem to hover between flu and allergy season, so it’s an important opportunity to take ownership of our own health and well-being. We all know the basics when it comes to avoiding colds and flu, “Wash your hands”, “Don’t stay up too late or you’ll get sick”, “Take your vitamins”. Sometimes even when we think we’re doing everything right, we still wake up with that telltale tickle in the throat or stuffy nose, sure signs that something unwanted may be brewing.

Armed with the right tools—particularly a few incredible superfoods and botanicals that keep the immune system functioning at its very best—you can support your immune system and stay healthy. These same tools will help you heal faster if you do fall victim to one of the many bugs being passed around this time of year. Your body can do miraculous things; once in a while it might just need a little boost.

These are great foods to keep on hand at all times. Incorporate them into your daily diet wherever you can to keep your immunity up.

Garlic: For centuries, garlic has been used for its antimicrobial properties. Allicin, along with a few other sulfur compounds in fresh, raw garlic are responsible for its antimicrobial effects. Studies show that these compounds are effective against salmonella, staph, influenza and rhinovirus. Consider dicing up some garlic and throwing it into apple cider vinegar and avocado oil for a warming, immune boosting salad dressing, or blend it (high speed blender is best) with raw honey, ginger and apple cider vinegar for a “firey” cider shot. This will really clear out the sinuses and get your blood moving.

Tip: Liquid chlorophyll is a great way to reduce garlic breath from the inside, and can easily be found at most health food stores. Best ways to consume: Fresh, raw, chopped or diced.

Ginger: Ginger is extremely warming and creates heat in the body, encouraging blood circulation. It contains chemicals called sesquiterpenes, which have antibacterial and antiviral properties. In a 2013 study, ginger was found to be effective in blocking viral attachment in the respiratory system. Ginger not only helps with respiratory issues, it is also very effective for digestive upset. Hot ginger tea is a soothing way to keep your body healthy, and if you find yourself with a cold, it will help break up mucus in the throat and sinuses.

Best ways to consume: Fresh, raw ginger, shredded or chopped. Add to salads, smoothies or cover with boiling water to create a warming, spicy tea.

Raw Honey: Honey has been used for thousands of years by many different cultures for its medicinal properties. Its antibacterial and antiviral properties make it a fantastic preventative for colds and flu. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, local raw honey can help reduce their severity. Raw honey is the best form since it has not been heated, which destroys most of the medicinal properties. If you find yourself feeling under the weather, honey can help sooth a sore throat and calm a cough. In a study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, honey was even shown to be more effective than Dextromethorphan (an over-the-counter cough suppressant) for children’s coughs.

Best ways to consume: Straight out of the jar with a clean spoon, 1 teaspoon at a time for sore throat and cough, or in tea for soothing comfort.

Precautions: Honey should never be given to children under 1 year old.

These add extra “oomph” for those times you need to amp up your protective barrier.

Elderberry: Elderberries are an excellent immune booster. They contain anthocyanidins, compounds that have immune stimulating effects. According to a study in the Journal of International Medical Research, if elderberry extract is taken within 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms, the duration of symptoms is reduced by up to four days. Elderberries must be cooked in order to extract the potent beneficial compounds. Eating raw elderberries is not recommended and can cause nausea. The good news is, elderberry syrups and extracts are easily found at most health food stores.

Best ways to consume:Elderberry extract, syrup or lozenges.

Echinacea: Native Americans used Echinacea for more than 400 years as a general cure-all. This lovely flower has been found to elevate interferon levels, which helps our bodies fight viruses, and stimulate white blood cells so they can be more effective in fighting infections. In 2007, researchers from The University of Connecticut published an analysis of 14 different studies on echinacea’s effectiveness. They found that echinacea reduced the chance of catching the common cold by 58 percent and shortened the length of colds by 2 to 4 days. Echinacea tea is a soothing way to enjoy this powerhouse botanical.

Best ways to consume: Tea, capsules or tinctures.

Precautions: Follow the dosage on the packaging. Too much at once can cause nausea and using for too long a period of time can create immunity.

Eucalyptus: Eucalyptus has the amazing ability to open up the sinuses when you’re feeling “stuffed up” and can even help with asthma. It works by dilating the blood vessels in the respiratory system, which opens up airways, stimulates the removal of mucus and relieves coughing.

Best ways to use: Put 2 drops of eucalyptus oil into a bowl of hot water and lean over the bowl, gently breathing in the vapors for 2 to 3 minutes. Another idea is to diffuse 5 drops of eucalyptus oil in a cool water oil diffuser.

Precautions: Eucalyptus should not be used for children under 3 years old.

Oil of Oregano: Many experts recommend keeping this amazing oil on hand as part of your natural healing toolkit. Oregano oil contains two powerful compounds called carvacrol and thymol. Studies have shown both of these compounds to have strong antibacterial and antifungal properties. It’s like taking a broad spectrum antibiotic able to fight multiple types of dangerous pathogens, without destroying good gut flora or creating antibiotic resistance. Oil of oregano capsules and tinctures can be found in most health food stores and many naturopathic doctors’ offices.

Best ways to consume: Capsules, tinctures or extracts.

Precautions: Follow the label instructions for proper dosage; should not be used during pregnancy.

Prevention is key to staying healthy. Here is a list of additional things you can do to keep your immune system as strong as possible all year long.

Wash your hands. Yes, mom was right, washing your hands is a great way to keep the germs away. Most of us touch some sort of shared or public surfaces multiple times per day, which is a perfect way to distribute pathogens. Since most of us touch our faces unconsciously an average of five times per day, washing our hands will go a very long way to preventing those pathogens from going any farther.

Eat your veggies. Remember to take in plenty of greens no matter the time of year. Poor food choices can affect gut health and since your immune system only has so much bandwidth, you don’t want to waste any of it on helping your gut heal from poor food choices.

Get plenty of sleep. Our immune cells use our sleep time as their active time so the less sleep you have, the less responsive your immune system will be able to be.

Gargle. Gargling with salt water is a great way to kill bad bacteria in the back of the throat. This can prevent respiratory infections and sooth sore throats.

Stay active. Exercise supports your immune system by moving your lymph and blood, allowing white blood cells to find and kill harmful microbes that might be lurking around. Exercise also lowers stress hormones, which are a huge immune zapper.

Kristin Pomeroy is a Wellness and Success Coach and owner of The Vibrant Living Project. She holds certifications in Plant Based Nutrition and Clinical Aromatherapy. She is also a Certified Raw Food Trainer, Certified Success Principles Trainer and holds a master’s in Education. Based in Simsbury, Pomeroy offers workshops and one-on-one coaching to help clients create success in all areas of life with well-being as the foundation. Connect at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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